The Great Scottish Referendum - dummies

By Julian Knight, Michael Pattison

A wake up call, a political earthquake, however you wish to describe it, the Scottish referendum on independence in September 2014 was one of the most dramatic UK political events of the past century. The result, which originally had seemed to be a foregone conclusion, that Scotland would vote to remain within the UK, became rather tense and very close indeed. In fact, a fortnight out from polling day, one pollster reckoned that Scotland would vote to go it alone. Cue panic amongst the political elite across the UK and also across much of the business community, as the cost of separation would have run into the many billions of pounds and the uncertainty created may have halted the ongoing economic recovery in its tracks.

A key reason the polls drew so close as the referendum debate intensified was the attitude of the 16 and 17 year olds who were allowed to vote for the first time (the majority of these voters were in favour of independence) and also the fact that many people who would not normally vote in general and local elections decided to take part in the independence poll. In fact, the eventual turnout at referendum was well over 80 per cent and in some parts of Scotland voter turnout above 90 per cent was commonplace. All in all, about 20 per cent more people took part in the referendum vote than would normally choose to cast their ballot for a general election.

As polling day neared and the result remained uncertain, the leaders of the three biggest political parties in the UK parliament – Conservative, Labour and the Lib Dems – decided to try and sway the vote by pledging to give increased powers to the Scottish parliament should the referendum result be for Scotland to remain in the UK. This ‘devolution max’ promise seemed to sway many undecided voters and signalled key constitutional changes for the UK which have been promised ahead of the 2015 general election.

On the night of the referendum result 45 per cent of votes were in favour of independence and the remainder against, showing that the Scottish people chose by majority to remain within the UK. However, it was a very close run thing and now it is up to the politicians in Westminster to deliver on their promises of greater powers for the Scottish parliament.